Gigi Hadid excused from jury duty in Harvey Weinstein trial; judge says case not 'referendum' on #MeToo movement

FP Staff

Model Gigi Hadid was excused on Thursday from serving as a juror in former film producer Harvey Weinstein's rape and sexual assault trial, US media reports.

The 24-year-old was greeted by a crowd of photographers as she returned to a New York court on the eighth day of jury selection.

Hadid strolled into the Manhattan courthouse just before 9 am (1400 GMT), but left discreetly about 10 minutes afterwards, according to police officers outside.

The US media reports the prosecution and defense had agreed to dismiss the famous model and Instagram star, excusing her from serving on the 12-person jury or as one of six alternates.

The move was expected, owing to her fame. Hadid, who has modeled for top fashion brands including Chanel, first appeared for the pre-screening of potential jurors on Monday, adding a fresh celebrity twist to the high-profile trial.

She told Judge James Burke although she knew Weinstein €" and actress Salma Hayek, who accused the disgraced movie mogul of sexual assault €" she could still be fair and impartial.

Intense media coverage of the high-profile proceedings seems to make the jury selection difficult. However, four men and three women have been chosen as jurors in the rape trial of Weinstein.  The seven chosen jurors include a woman who works at a sports venue, a woman who works as a security guard and a man who works in banking. Opening arguments are expected to begin on 22 January.

Read: The Harvey Weinstein story: From studio to courtroom in 40 years

Since 2017, Weinstein has been accused of sexual assault by more than 80 women, including Ashley Judd and Gwyneth Paltrow. He is, however, being tried on charges related to just two. He faces life in prison if found guilty of predatory sexual assault in the trial likely to run into early March.

The allegations helped fuel the #MeToo movement, in which women have gone public with misconduct allegations against powerful men in business, entertainment and politics. But the judge has cautioned against using the case to make a broader statement about the #MeToo movement. "This trial is not a referendum on the #MeToo movement," Justice James Burke told the potential jurors."You must decide this case on the evidence."

Jurors, all of whom had already passed a round of pre-screening and submitted written questionnaires, were questioned in groups of 20 by the lawyers in the case.

Prosecutors asked whether jurors would be able to convict Weinstein on the basis of witness testimony, without other evidence.

Defense lawyer Damon Cheronis asked one group whether they would consider the cross-examination of a woman who said she was assaulted as "victim-shaming," and whether they thought it was possible that a woman might "reframe" a consensual sexual encounter as an assault years later.

Most of the questioning drew only nods in response from the potential jurors. After questioning, each side was given an opportunity to strike jurors from the pool.

At one point, while jurors were out of the room, prosecutor Joan Illuzzi accused Weinstein's lawyers of systematically striking "every white female" from the pool, as per Associated Press.

Donna Rotunno, one of Weinstein's lawyers, did not dispute striking the white women, but said there were reasons for each. "We are here to try to pick a fair jury," she said. "This is not some conspiracy against the state."

Meanwhile, on Wednesday, Weinstein's lawyers filed a last-minute motion with a New York appellate court to have his trial delayed and moved out of Manhattan, arguing the "carnival-like atmosphere" surrounding the case made it impossible for him to get a fair trial. They argued intense media speculation surrounding the case into a "media and entertainment circus." "The deluge of publicity adverse to Mr Weinstein has engulfed the potential jury pool resulting in untoward pressure upon jurors to convict a man demonised and prejudged guilty," Weinstein's lawyer Arthur Aidala wrote in a filing.

The court denied the request for a delay and will rule on the request to move the trial by next week, according to Aidala.

(With inputs from agencies)

Also See: Harvey Weinstein threatened by judge after being caught using cellphone in court: 'Not looking for apologies but compliance'

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